Group pulls McDonogh bust from Mississippi River

Updated: Jun. 15, 2020 at 4:50 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - In a video obtained by FOX 8, a bystander records a group of men Sunday pulling the bust of John McDonogh out of the Mississippi River as “God Bless America” plays from the Natchez Steamboat.

A group of people tore down the statue Saturday and dumped it into the river. Two people face several charges, for their alleged role in removal of the statue in Duncan Plaza.

"The city of New Orleans will not tolerate vandalism or destruction of public and private property,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell, “we will ensure arrests are made and that people are held accountable."

Walter Stern, a history and educational policy assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a New Orleans native says McDonogh leaves behind a mixed legacy.

"John McDonogh was a slave owner who acquired his wealth largely through the slave owner, plantation owner,” Stern said. “Upon his death, he left significant amount of money for the education of white and black children in New Orleans and his native Baltimore."

Money McDonogh left behind built a number of schools across New Orleans. For decades, they bored his name. Today, only a few remain.

"One of the things McDonogh said in his will is that he gave this money and he asked that every year children come and leave flowers on his grave,” said Stern. “One way that was honored was annually there was a ‘McDonogh Day’ in the spring."

Stern says children honored McDonogh in different ways depending on their race. During Jim Crow, Stern says White children went first while Black children followed. He says the way protesters brought down the bust will have its own impact.

“These symbols really matter, and you know taking down the statue isn’t going to end systematic racism, but it sends the message just how dramatic we need to rethink how we structure society,” Stern said.

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